Answering the Question of Suffering for Sir David Attenborough


Blessed is He in Whose hand is the kingdom, and He has power over all things;Who has created death and life that He might try you — which of you is best in deeds; and He is the Mighty, the Most Forgiving.

Who has created seven heavens in harmony. No incongruity canst thou see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again: Seest thou any flaw?

Aye, look again, and yet again, thy sight will only return unto thee confused and fatigued. (Al Quran 67:2-5)


David Attenborough showing his typical fascination with animals and plants. The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles on the theme of Religion & Science

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

First of all I want to thank Sir David Attenborough for all the great documentaries he has produced about nature, animal and plant kingdom.  I have watched most if not all of them.

Attenborough is no stranger to most of the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the previous worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, spoke of him and his work highly, on more than one occasion.

Once you have enjoyed Attenborough’s work, you are even more intrigued to find the answers to the larger questions.  Is there a purpose to our universe and our lives?  Is there a Creator?  Why does suffering exist?  Why could not an Omnipotent God create a universe without suffering?

This is where I come in with this post and additional materials collected in here.

Sir David Frederick Attenborough (born 8 May 1926) is a British broadcaster and naturalist.

His career as the face and voice of natural history programs has endured for more than 50 years. He is best known for writing and presenting the nine Life series, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, which collectively form a comprehensive survey of all life on the planet. He is also a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sir Attenborough certainly stands in awe of the majesty of nature but raises the question of suffering, in this video clip, to deny God.  I will try to answer the question of suffering in the words of his hero, Charles Darwin.  Let me quote here the concluding paragraph, in the later editions of the legendary book of Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species that can make one quickly conceptualize the role of suffering in the grand scheme of things:

From the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been breathed, by the Creator, into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Once the question about suffering is understood as a tool for evolution, as Charles Darwin suggested, then one is ready to fully appreciate the beauty of God’s creation as suggested by many of the verses of the Holy Quran.

For additional reading about the question of suffering, allow me to take the liberty to suggest to you a chapter on this issue in Part II of a book, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth.

Albert Einstein and the Founding Fathers of USA, including President Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine were Deists and I invite David Attenborough to start there.  Once he has read about them and their Deism, I will invite him to our site, Islam for the West.

When any honest scientist studies nature, he feels, like Albert Einstein, the presence of superior reasoning power, revealed in the incomprehensible universe. However, as the novelty of any new discovery in nature wears off, we begin to take the beauty, complexity, organization and co-ordination that we see every day around us for granted and many among us become vulnerable to think that it may have come into existence purely by chance. However, when we come across the newly discovered organization in nature our prior inferences are challenged. We are flabbergasted and astounded for a brief period of time and truly applause the beauty of the creation of God for a little while, until we are duped by the secular propaganda of neo-Darwinism again and begin to take things for granted. Anesthesia of familiarity takes over! The article, The anesthesia of familiarity: There should be a Creator for this universe, examines the splendid interior decorations arranged by the bower birds and a lot more.

For additional details about the question of suffering, read a chapter of a book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth: The Question of Suffering.

Suggested Reading

Are the Scientists the Better Teachers for Several of the Attributes of God?

The anesthesia of familiarity: There should be a Creator of Our Universe

Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God


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